People of Influence – Richard Leonard – The Likely Lad From Yorkshire Thinks his Boats Come In Confirming his Destiny is to lead the Labour party in Scotland




Richard Leonard




Family Background – Richard Leonard – Labour Party (List) Member of Scottish Parliament

Richard’s 3rd Great-grandfather, (Roman Catholic), Francis Leonard, his wife Jane and 4 children left Co Tyrone around 1850 and took up residence in Whitfield, Yorkshire.

Francis was a stone cutter to trade.

His two girls Ellen B1833 and Mary B1837 gained employment in cotton weaving.

Richard’s 2nd Great-grandfather, Peter, b1839 in Ireland was employed in an Iron foundry.

Living in Leeds in 1863, he married Yorkshire born widow, Frances b1835.

They had seven children (5 boys and 2 girls).

Richard’s Great-grandfather, (Church of England), Arthur, b1874 in Leeds was employed by Leeds Corporation as a sewage worker.

In Leeds in 1896 he married Yorkshire lass Esther b1879.

They had six children (3 girls and 3 boys)

Richard’s Grandfather, John William, b1908 in Leeds was employed as an engineer.

In 1930 in Bramely, W Yorks. he married Lily b1912.

Richard’s father Yorkshire born, Derek (1932-1999) married Janet in Leeds in 1939.

They had three children (2 girls and Richard b1962)

Richard was born in Buckrose, Yorkshire, England.

An intelligent boy he was fortunate in receiving a local authority scholarship which allowed his education from 1973-80 at Pocklington School, an independent school in the East Riding of Yorkshire, England.

After School he studied for a degree in politics and economics at the University of Stirling.

Information available provides no record of his gaining a degree from his time at University.

He married Kathryn in 1989 and had one son b1995 in Paisley.

They divorced in 2000.

He married divorcee, Karen in 2011.

The couple reside in Paisley together with his son and Karen’s daughter from her previous marriage.

Karen is a senior office holder with the GMB ensuring Richard is able to keep his finger on the pulse of Union politics




Political Career

Leonard worked as a research assistant to Alex Falconer MEP from 1985 for six years, before moving on to become Assistant Secretary of the STUC where he was responsible for economic affairs in a post he held for five years.

In 1996 Richard left the STUC to take up the role of an Organiser for the GMB union representing workers in manufacturing, commercial and public services across Scotland.

The GMB’s Political Officer in Scotland, he served as Chairperson of the Scottish Labour Party between 2002 and 2003.

First elected to the Labour Party Scottish Executive Committee in 1997 he is its longest serving member.

For many years Richard has been a regular writer and campaigner on the economy; contributing to various publications.

He has served on the Board of the Govan Initiative in Glasgow and then the Glasgow South West Regeneration Agency since 2000.

He was a Friends of the Earth (Scotland) Board member from 2005 to 2008.

He stood as the Labour candidate for Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley in the 2011 Scottish Parliament election, coming second.

Then, in the 2016 Scottish Parliament election he gained a seat in Holyrood as a List MSP.



The Keir Hardy Association

Inspired politically by Labour’s first leader Keir Hardie Richard co-founded, together with Joe Culliane, (Leader of North Ayrshire Council) the Keir Hardie Society in 2010.

He is the Secretary of the Society and Vice Chairperson of the Scottish Labour History Society.

Other significant Scottish Labour party followers of the Keir Hardie doctrine include Ex Prime Minister Gordon Brown, Scottish labour party Deputy leader, MSP Alex Rowley and former Leadership front runner MSP Neil Lindsay.

Historical biography of keir Hardie here: (


Comment: I doubt Keir Hardie would have been a member of the present day Labour Party since the bulk of its policies conflict with his attitude to social justice.

That being the case it is clear that the Labour party abandoned the values of Keir Hardie many years ago in search of the Yankee dollar.

In a number of public addresses extolling his virtues, Richard Leonard exercised selective amnesia claiming the Labour Party had been founded by Hardie, which is not the case.

The facts are that at a meeting in Glasgow, in August 1888 the entirely autonomous “Scottish Labour Party” was formed by kindred spirits, Keir Hardy,(Party Secretary) and Robert Cunninghame-Graham, (President).

Cunninghame-Graham went on to found the “National Party of Scotland”, later the “Scottish National Party” (SNP).




The Early Years in Politics

Leonard was at the peak of his powers in the Labour Party in Scotland, in the period 1996-2004.

His inner circle of like minded colleagues included Jack McConnnell, Alex Rowley, Neil Lindsay and Gordon Brown.

Events have gone full circle and it appears his time has come again.

A number of noteworthy incidences occurring between 1996-2002 provide example of the simmering conflict between Blair and Leonard.




2 Sep 1996: At the Beck and Call of Cardinal Puff; the Humbling of Scottish Labour over Devolution Underlines Tony Blair’s authority over His Party

When I was young, we used to play a pub game called Cardinal Puff.

The person elected as Cardinal Puff commanded the company to perform a series of rather ridiculous actions.

For instance, it might be: `Cardinal Puff says: `Place your beer-mug on your head.”

The first person who failed to follow instructions or broke sequence bought the next round. Cardinal Puff himself never paid.

The Labour Party has been playing Cardinal Puff ever since it elected Tony Blair as leader, and this weekend it has been the turn of the national executive of the Scottish wing of the party to jump obediently through the hoops at Cardinal’s Puff’s behest

Naturally they have done so like obedient poodles.

Some may have jumped with gritted teeth, but they have jumped nevertheless, submitting their will to his.


Richard Leonard and wife Karen



8 Feb 1997: Blair’s wild bunch. The Scottish Labour Party

In most of Britain, politicians are obsessed by the general election, now no more than 12 weeks away.

Many Scottish Labour politicians, however, have their minds on another election at least two years away: the election to the Scottish parliament which Labour has promised if it wins power at Westminster.

Some senior Labour figures are seriously worried by the power struggle already under way in the party north of the border.

Unchecked, it might imperil devolution, and rekindle the movement for full Scottish independence.

Turmoil in the Scottish Labour Party may come to a head at its conference on March 8th.

For it is here that annual elections to Labour’s Scottish executive take place, and the committee elected this year will draw up the rules for choosing candidates for a Scottish parliament.

These rules will largely determine which Labour politicians obtain a seat in Edinburgh.

In Scottish politics, New Labour does not yet rule.




4 Jul 1998: Dewar’s distress: Scottish Labour Party and its secretary, Donald Dewar, face challenge from Scottish National Party

In Tony Blair’s impending cabinet reshuffle, one unexpected problem is suddenly looming large: what to do about Donald Dewar, the Scottish secretary.

Unexpected, because a few months ago, no minister’s stock was higher.

Mr Dewar had delivered an emphatic Yes in the referendum on the Scottish parliament and has been skilfully steering through Westminster the highly complicated bill to set it up.

But back in Scotland, everything seems to be falling apart.

Disgruntled Labour Party members who failed to be selected as potential Labour candidates for the Scottish elections demonstrated outside the party’s offices in Glasgow on June 29th.




10 Feb 2002: As Blair battles with Labour’s oldest allies, Jack McConnell faces a harsh choice in Scotland: follow the UK way or nail his colours to the traditional mast.

The case for Scottish home rule was based on the idea that the nation was different.

Yet, less than two years after devolution, it is England that is turning into the foreign land.

With the Prime Minister leading the charge for reformers against wreckers, the dominant part of the UK is changing fast while Scotland is becoming a bastion of stability – or stagnation.

The past week found Tony Blair doing what he does best: taking on the movement he nominally leads.

Hostilities were meant to be opened with the speech he was supposed to make to the TUC on September 11, a date that could have gone down as a watershed in British politics but ended up taking on far greater symbolism.

Instead, February 3 will be seen as the day that defined Blair’s second term.




30 Sep 2002: Richard Leonard, Scottish Labour Party Chairman Signals Split With Blair Policies

The chairman of Scottish Labour has called for socialism to become the party’s rallying-call during next year’s Holyrood elections – signalling a deep and damaging split with both Tony Blair and the party in England.

Richard Leonard, an ally of Jack McConnell, has said the party needs to go to the polls being “less apologetic and less defensive about our socialism” and needs to “rediscover its soul”.

His comments will infuriate Mr Blair, who vowed yesterday to press ahead with controversial public sector reforms – despite damning criticism from union leaders.

The Prime Minister faces embarrassment today at the party conference in Blackpool over the issue, but both he and Alan Milburn, the health secretary, signalled their determination yesterday to continue with changes including extension of Private Finance Initiatives.




22 Apr 2014: Leonard Supports Labours Campaign Against Independence – But Loses the Argument

Nation-wide branch Skills Development Scotland held a Yes/No debate at their 2014 AGM.

Richard Leonard, GMB’s political officer represented the “No” campaign, United for Labour, and went head-to-head with Richie Venton of Trade Unionists for Independence.

Yes emerged the popular choice of the night.

Skills Development Scotland branch secretary, Derek Cheyne, said: “It was a really good debate – I think a lot of people really engaged and we had a great turn out as well.

I’ve got to say, I think that most of the questions from the floor were very pro-yes.

We’ve not canvassed on whether our members are yes or no, but I got the feeling tonight Yes was dominant.

I hope it has energised our members, that they become more involved whether it’s yes or no – that’s entirely up to them, because my union has taken a more neutral stance, adding, But as I said – tonight seemed to be quite positively on the Yes side.”

Richie Venton said: “It was an excellent debate – there were some forceful arguments, but very respectful.

For me, probably the most significant factor is that trade unionists spelt out that the struggle for “Yes” is driving towards the conclusion that we need radical change in society.

And that will build the basis for a future shaping of Scotland in an entirely different direction – to favour the working class.”




Trident – Scottish Labour Party Decide the Policy

Conference debated Trident.

In an active debate discussion centred on trade union concerns about the threat to jobs that non-renewal would create.

The carefully worded composite saying that “prior to any decision to cancel Trident firm commitments should be made to retaining defence workers jobs”, was sufficient to attract UNITE’s support.

The GMB remained implacably opposed, saying that diversification would never deliver well paid secure jobs and that it was “pie in the sky”.

In his summing up speech a delegate from Glasgow South-side CLP remarked he would rather have pie in the sky than a mushroom cloud.

In the end, Conference voted 70% to 30% in favour of “not seeking a replacement for Trident and abandoning plans to spend billions on a new generation of nuclear weapons.”

Note: The Labour Party’s current policy is to support Trident, backed by its party conference.

Corbyn has said that the policy would be reviewed by any future Labour government.

Leonard supports the GMB position which is to retain Trident




Leonard’s Bid for the Leadership of the Scottish Labour Party

His bid for a starring role in Scottish politics so late in the day raises the question. Why now?

His answer might well be, why not?

Everyone else has had a go at it and failed!!

An added incentive included the early withdrawal from the race of Leonard admirers, Alex Rowley and Neil Lindsay who publicly pledged their support.

The Party in Scotland is bogged down at a crossroads and going nowhere.

A wrong turn now might well bring about its final demise and it is important that the new leader should be able to motivate party members closely empathising with the politics of the Labour party in England.

Leonard fits the pattern.

He is highly intelligent and greatly experienced politically through his long service with Labour stalwarts from the past and many years working in the industrial sector with the GMB union.

The very fact that party members respond, Richard who? to mention of his candidacy is a gift to his campaign since it confirms he is carrying no negative political baggage.

As was Keir Hardie, Leonard is a federalist,(stopping just short of independence) a belief that has wide support within the party.

In this respect he will insist the party in Scotland maintains autonomy whilst retaining full membership of the Labour movement within the British isles.

Press releases have Jeremy Corbyn supporting home rule within the UK and this bodes well for the party in Scotland.

He has a firm grasp of economics, through his many years as the economics policy advisor for the GMB and will propose radical solutions to economic, financial and social areas of concern.

But, as is the case with Corbyn and McDonald.

The devil is in the detail and how do we pay for it? will be the question asked many times but rarely answered.

By result stretching credibility beyond an acceptable level.

Alex Rowley’s daughter, Danielle Rowley, MP for Midlothian is to lead Leonard’s campaign.




Hows the Campaign Going so Far?

Pundits have Leonard pulling ahead in the race as Corbynites grab control of Scottish Labour.

Rival Anas Sarwar’s support is evaporating fast as his colleagues come under pressure from the, “Campaign for Socialism” group which has members in just about every control level of the party.

De-selection beckons for any councillor, MSP or MP not onside as left wingers within constituencies assert their authority.

A Sarwar supporter said: “It’s a coup. They know they will face reselection and a Corbynite candidate could easily be moved up the list at the next election.

They want to save their jobs and that means we’re looking at an Englishman nobody outside the union movement has heard of leading Scottish Labour.

The divisions within the party emerged as Labour MSPs met for an “away day” excursion at the Holyrood MacDonald hotel, in the shadow of the parliament.

The event had been arranged before Dugdale quit but the battle to succeed her dominated discussions.

A source said: “it’s now clear elected politicians are moving behind Central list MSP Leonard.

I am resigned to seeing trade union votes move solidly behind Englishman Leonard, thanks to his 20 years’ service as a GMB official.




17 Sep 2017: Leadership Candidate Leonard Vows Party Will Rediscover Socialism

Leonard believes in a wider labour movement beyond Scotland.

He is an internationalist believing the labour movement to be built on the principles of solidarity and collectivism.

His goal in life is to actively participate in the construction of a society based on the, human, social and economic values of democratic socialism.

Vowing Labour would not form a pact with the SNP or back a second independence referendum under his leadership he admitted his political views have gone in and out of fashion over time but drew parallels with Corbyn – a success story he hopes to emulate.

If elected First Minister, he vowed to pursue policies redistributing power, including an industrial strategy for full employment, tough rent controls, a workers’ right to buy their companies and to nationalise failing public services such as Scot Rail and Royal Mail.

He also backs the UK Labour leadership’s view on Brexit, for a long-term transition period with Britain in the single market.

Launching his leadership bid, he promised that Labour would “rediscover our ethical socialist roots”. (highbeam)



As a member of the Labour party Leonard has to take and abide by the instructions of his his party whip.

This means that he can never support or devise policies that are not agreed by the UK Labour party.

Therefore, if successful in his leadership campaign he can only aspire to be a branch manager for Labour in Scotland.

Economic policies that primarily benefit voters in England are the only policies that he or any other candidate for the leadership of the Scottish labour party will be allowed to promote.

Economic policies designed to meet Scottish needs and circumstances can only be committed to by a party answerable to Scottish voters and he isn’t a member of such a party.




14 Sep 2017: Aspiring Labour Leader Richard Leonard Fears Scottish Parliament Hasn’t Lived Up to its Potential

Richard Leonard helped set up the Scottish Parliament – but 20 years after the referendum he fears it hasn’t lived up to its potential.

In an interview, he claimed an air of complacency has replaced the early optimism of Holyrood.

Now the Jeremy Corbyn ally is determined to become Scottish Labour’s next leader and bring about “radical change”.

Leonard might lack a big public profile – he was first elected just last year – but his party credentials stretch back decades.

In the 90s, Leonard’s role at the Trades Union Congress gave him a steering hand in the creation of the parliament in which he now represents Central Scotland.

“The whole point about that whole campaign was we wanted a parliament to do things differently, bring about some radical change,” he said.

“The document we worked on at the time was called ‘power for change’ so it was a vision of a very different Scotland, based in the context of Thatcherism, John Major, and ideologically driven Tory government and how we could do something here to act as a bulwark.”

Almost 20 years to the day since the Yes-Yes vote for a parliament with tax-raising powers, is he pleased with what he sees?

“Yes and no,” Leonard said. “It’s done some great things like legislation on land reform and Legislation on homelessness was world-leading.

The creation of a co-operative development agency was an important step forward.

We’ve got a resilient labour market and our NHS waiting times are better than in England but is that really the limit of our ambitions?

A lot of the potential has not been realised.

If I look at areas where there have been powers from the creation of the parliament, whether it’s housing, education and training policy, industrial and manufacturing policy.

In those areas we haven’t realised the potential. “The reasons that drove me to stand was, frankly, a sense of frustration that the hopes and aspirations which led us to campaign for the Scottish Parliament haven’t been realised.” (Daily Record)




Leonard Intends to Do a Corbyn on Scotland

Leonard campaigned to remain in the EU but says he respects the UK-wide referendum decision.

He raised eyebrows, however, by ignoring the party whip in a symbolic Holyrood vote against Theresa May’s decision to trigger EU exit negotiations.

“For the SNP this was all about a second independence referendum so that was a reason why I voted against it,” he said.

Predictable questions have also been raised by anonymous party figures about an Englishman leading Scottish Labour.

But Leonard believes Scottish politics needs to shake itself out of an obsession with geography. He said:

“All my experience of all these years in Scotland is people are tolerant and welcoming, it shouldn’t be an issue, It’s not where you’re from, it’s where you’re going to.

Politics should be about political principles, not geography.

And one of the problems about politics in recent years is that people have been far too mesmerised with geography and not concentrated enough on political principle, and that’s something I’d aim to change, adding, I see great opportunities for transforming Scotland.

The best way to do that is leading the Scottish Labour Party. And on the platform of that, to be the next Labour first minister.”


Leonard, a member of CND he supports retention of Trident



6 Sep 2017: Neil Lindsay (MSP) Answers Questions. Who is Richard Leonard?

Q. Neil, many thanks for making time for us. Tell us about Richard Leonard.

A. Richard may not be famous to people outside the party yet, but he’s very well known within Scottish Labour.

He studied here, worked for the Scottish TUC and then for Alec Falconer when he was an MEP.

Alec was well-known, a former dockyard worker and a huge character.

Between them, they ran every left organisation and campaign for years and they were formidable – ‘a pair and a half’.

They both used to share an office with Gordon Brown – they always got along well but from time to time there were good-natured differences!

For the last 20 years Richard was a trade union official, latterly political officer with GMB Scotland [union].

He’s intelligent, thoughtful and consistent in his politics.

He’s never aligned himself publicly with any group or faction in Scotland but he’s always been supportive and worked closely with the left.

He’s also savvy – he didn’t get involved in the Better Together campaign, recognising what a disaster that would be for Labour in Scotland and he was proved absolutely right.

He’s a thinker. He’s written extensively about public and employee ownership and recently developed Scottish Labour’s industrial strategy; he’s a real Labour historian and founding member of the Keir Hardie Society.

But he’s got real-world, practical intelligence – as a union man he’s negotiated with angry employers and knows how to handle people.

Q. And he’s a Corbyn supporter?

A. Look, Richard is his own man – but he has the courage of his convictions.

He signed a letter with me, Alex Rowley and others last year supporting Corbyn’s leadership when that was very unfashionable in Scotland.

Whilst he hasn’t been a member of the CFS [Scottish, ‘Campaign for Socialism’] he most certainly has never been a member of Progress either. I regard him as politically a very close friend.

Q. Unfashionable?

A. During the leadership contest last year, more full Labour members backed Owen Smith than Jeremy.

However, when you included registered supporters, Scottish Labour backed Corbyn.

It’s a different electorate now even compared to last year and it’s been changing for a good while.

When I stood against Jim Murphy, there were only about 15,000 members and the party was on its arse – but even then I got 35% when I was fighting the entire party Establishment and a well-resourced candidate. Sarah [Boyack] took 9% and Jim 55%.

That meant that even in 2014 45% of Scottish Labour members supported left candidates. Now we have around 22,000 members and 9,000 registered supporters.

Q. So registered supporters will participate in this contest too – will they have to pay again to register?

A. Yes, they’ll have a vote – there’s a meeting on Saturday to agree the rules.

Q. How do you see the contest unfolding?

A. I think it’s wide open and all to play for.

We’re planning a campaign based on policy not personality and I hope that will be the same for both candidates.

Neither Richard nor Anas are the kind of people to do personal attacks.

The key issue is going to be resources. Anas’ campaign will be extremely well resourced with no shortage of funds

Q. Now, I have to ask: what about accents? Is it going to matter that Richard’s originally from England?

A. I think the accent issue is hugely overplayed.

There’ll be a flurry of interest and then it’s over. Richard’s one of us and he’s been here over thirty years since he was at uni, but we’re going to be concentrating on policy and vision. That’s what sets him apart.

Q. Are you playing a formal role in his campaign?

A. No, I’ll be helping in whatever way is needed.

The head of his campaign has just been appointed and there’ll be news about that shortly but people will be very pleased with the person who’s going to be running things for Richard There’ll be an announcement shortly.

Q. How would you like to round off the interview?

A. Policies and vision are the key. If people want a Scottish Labour leader who won’t just help restore the party’s fortunes in Scotland but will bring a genuine vision for the whole country, they’ll vote for Richard.

Conclusion: The SKWAWKBOX has already endorsed Richard Leonard for the Scottish Labour leadership, but our conversation with the highly-regarded Neil Findlay has only reinforced the conviction that, while his opponent Anas Sarwar represents a step back to the bad old days for Labour in Scotland, Leonard can be the leader who takes the party forward – and is good for the country.




21 Sep 2017: More unions want Leonard for leader

The left-wing candidate in the Scottish Labour leadership contest received the support of two more trade unions yesterday.

Central Scotland MSP Richard Leonard was backed by train drivers’ union Aslef and Unite Scotland in his bid to defeat “moderate” candidate Anas Sarwar.

Mr Leonard, who was a GMB union organiser for 20 years, received support from rail union TSSA last Friday and is expected to gain further labour movement endorsements over the coming weeks.

Since entering the contest Leonard, an unwavering supporter of Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, has put forward a manifesto that includes rent controls and an industrial strategy involving public ownership of rail and mail.

Unite Scotland chair Scot Walker said: “We want Labour to take the radical socialist road in Scotland.

We support Richard Leonard because we believe he would take us on that journey.

We urge Unite members to follow our lead and vote for Richard in the coming election.”

Aslef general secretary Mick Whelan said: “We’re proud to support his campaign. He’s a committed trade unionist and recognises that the people of Scotland are hungry for change.

I know that under Richard’s leadership, train drivers will have a robust voice in Scotland.”

Aslef’s Scotland organiser Kevin Lindsay said: “I’ve known Richard for many years. He wants to ensure Scotland’s railways are run for the people, not to subsidise the fares of our European neighbours or to be given away as dividends to line the pockets of private company shareholders.

He’ll represent the vast majority of Scottish people who are fed up with the status quo.”






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